Inkjet and Print as a Service for SMB is Print’s Next Sweet Spot

As we head into 2019, there’s every reason to be optimistic about the entire printing and imaging ecosystem. Regardless of any “paperless office” stories you may hear, the office technology segment of the imaging channel remains extremely viable as the need for complete document solutions grows and the improving functionality of inkjet devices continues to accelerate. With our industry now relentlessly focused on how best to maximize the conveniences and efficiencies of integrating printers and MFPs with other digital communication tools and software applications, manufacturers and resellers are poised to generate more revenue by providing a holistic office printing experience for end users.

Large enterprise is leading the way in the digital transformation, focusing on taking the cost out of the system and creating an integrated content strategy. Yet small and midsized businesses (SMB) represent an especially attractive market for resellers, VARs and vendors that understand that segment’s particular needs and challenges and offer customized solutions that reduce costs, improve margins and maintain long-term relationships. According to IDC’s Worldwide and U.S. Managed Print and Document Services and Basic Print Services Forecast, 2017—2021, the SMB tends to seek more of a combined digital/print approach, focused on not only automating processes and improving workflow, but on seeking color print capabilities that are both affordable and accessible. Because of these needs, the SMB is an ideal target for lower-cost inkjet-based printers and MFPs, and it has also long been a sweet spot for managed print services that seek to optimize those devices and manage printing needs.

MPS is also evolving, and we are now seeing Print-as-a-Service programs come into play. These programs can be ideal for IT value-added resellers selling to SMBs, allowing IT VARs to easily generate agreements that include print, service and supplies in one package, reducing VARs’ overall cost to service their customers. Because this market is shifting from selling devices to selling services, resellers need tools that ensure they maintain a long-term relationship with their customers while also receiving the full value of that relationship. This is especially important for IT VARs that are typically selling on a transactional basis and may not have the ability to maintain ongoing service and support.

With PaaS programs that include lower-cost-of-ownership business inkjet devices, resellers can develop and sell print agreements that are integrated with industry leading partners for processes such as monthly billing, tax management and device management as well as distribution and automatic supplies replenishment with minimal support required from the reseller. This type of creativity and symmetry is crucial when addressing the SMB market.

The SMB is the segment in which business inkjet shipments have the highest growth projections. Targeting the SMB market with the right kind of inkjet solutions will pay dividends for these smaller customers as well as their equipment and service providers.

Inkjet technology, already the market standard in consumer and wide-format printer shipments, is particularly appealing to SMB and small workgroup segments because it enables affordable color printing. In addition, IDC projects that inkjet production print volume is projected to rise from 25 percent in 2017 to 36 percent by 2021.

For the office printer market, resellers and managed print service providers looking for even more good news should take heart in forecasts predicting that inkjet will grow from about 48 percent of office printer shipments last year to more than 60 percent over this same period — and most of that demand will come from SMB customers.

Subscription models that drive Print-as-a-Service offerings will become the norm rather than the exception because they deliver predictable monthly costs and allow for the seamless and affordable introduction of the latest technology with minimal disruption.

This fundamental shift — which looks and feels just like the many other cloud-based business applications and processes customers have come to adore — makes inkjet technology all the more enticing for SMBs and the vendors and resellers they select.

is Director of Business Imaging at Epson America, and leads the marketing of Epson’s WorkForce products into North America, including the revolutionary new 100-page-a-minute WorkForce Enterprise WF-C20590 printer. He is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience.